Statement Of Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), On 302(b) Allocations, the FY2019 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill, And The FY 2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

I want to welcome Senator Shelby as the new Chairman of this Committee.  Chairman Shelby and I have served side-by-side in the Senate since 1987, and we have worked together on the Appropriations Committee for more than two decades.  We share a commitment to returning to regular order and working in a bipartisan way to achieve that goal.  

The allocation Chairman Shelby has offered gets us started on the right path.  I thank the Chairman for working in a bipartisan manner to reach this agreement.  It is not the allocation that I would have written on my own, and I suspect it is not the allocation you would have written on your own, but that is the nature of compromise.  In sharp contrast, the House is taking a very different path.  Their allocation leaves important bills without the resources needed to meet the needs of this nation, and the bills that have been marked up are already filled with poison pill riders.  I commend, and I thank, the Chairman for working with me and with this Committee to avoid such riders. 

The allocation before us abides by the bipartisan budget agreement and the spending levels we set for Fiscal Year 2019.  It will allow us to invest in programs that support working families, protect our environment, promote innovative research, invest in our nation’s infrastructure, support our troops, and care for our veterans.  The allocation is fair and responsible, and I urge its adoption. 

The Committee also has before it two appropriations bills—the FY 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, and the FY 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill.  I want to thank Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein for their bipartisan work on the Energy and Water bill.  I also want to thank Chairman Hoeven and Senator Merkley for their work on the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Both are products of bipartisanship and compromise.  These bills invest in our country’s water infrastructure and energy programs, and provide funding to support our rural communities and farmers that will benefit Vermont and the nation. 

The Energy and Water bill makes important investments in our rural communities through regional Commissions, including the four-state Northern Border Regional Commission. I am pleased that the bill supports much needed repairs and improvements in our environmental infrastructure and energy infrastructure, and strengthens innovative ways to deliver these critical assets that will make Vermont and the entire country more resilient to the changing climate and violent weather events.

I am also thankful that the bill once again includes strong funding for the Weatherization Program, which helps so many families in Vermont, the Northeast, and northern states across the country who struggle with high home heating prices during the cold winter months. The bill wisely rejects several of the administration’s budget proposals by making real investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.  This will accelerate diversified and sustainable energy production in this country, while supporting American innovation in the private sector, as well as the many world class research institutions across the country. 

The Agriculture Appropriations bill is a win for farmers, families, and rural communities in Vermont and across the country who are struggling right now.  I am pleased that it rejects the ill-advised cuts proposed by the Trump administration for rural housing, rural development, and clean water programs. 

This bill continues support for the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone program, and makes important investments in Vermont’s farm economy, all while protecting our water, farmland, and forests, and supporting critical and complex research needs. The investment in the Farm to School Program supports farmers and communities across the country by empowering children and their families to make informed food choices. This grant program connects farmers to schools ensuring children have access to healthy and local food throughout the country.  It supports other critical nutrition programs such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and Emergency Assistance Food Program, which supports our nation’s foodbanks. Finally, this bill maintains support for organic farmers, who are working hard to grow our domestic supply by investing in the National Organic Program, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and organic research.

I urge members to vote “Aye” on the Motions to Report. 

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